Susan’s son, Chris, was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 17. Here, she talks about the difficulties she’s faced, the help her family received from Rethink Mental Illness, and why she’s leaving a gift to us in her will.
"On a night I can still hardly bear to think about, my teenage son, Chris, was handcuffed by the police and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
We’d known something was seriously wrong for some time. He had massive tantrums, refused to go to school, and would angrily accuse us of things we knew we hadn’t done. Chris was discharged from hospital, prescribed some medication and sent back to us with no explanation, no help and no support.
We had no idea what to do or where to turn. His paranoia got worse. Chris would prowl round the house, checking to see if there were terrorists outside.
He installed security locks and alarms in his bedroom, and woke us up every 10 minutes during the night to check we were okay. He then started disappearing for days on end, coming home filthy, exhausted, hungry and ill. The only way he could get any peace from what was going on in his head was if we took him for long drives in the dark on the motorway. My husband and I would do this for three or four hours at a time, taking turns.
One day Chris told me that he’d had enough. He said he had no future and there was only one way out. He wanted to take his own life. I called every organisation I could think of to try and get help for Chris, but only one understood exactly what we were going through, and most importantly what we could do about it. The healthcare system is a real maze and people get pushed from pillar to post.
Without the help and advice we received from Rethink Mental Illness, Chris would never have found the right treatment, let alone had it funded, or received the benefits he’s entitled to. Chris is now able to live independently. He even works as a volunteer befriender for others affected by mental illness. Rethink Mental Illness is there to help families affected by severe mental illness. They want to make the system better too, but they rely on gifts in wills to fund much of their work.
That’s why I’m remembering Rethink Mental Illness in my will. Because of those we’ve lost. Because of those we’ve saved. It’s down to us.